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A Changing Planet Seminar: Climate impacts on water & sanitation: Building resilience in small systems

Water and sanitation services are a foundation of good public health with the lack of access leading to 1.4 million avoidable deaths every year. Climate change presents a new and additional threat to water and sanitation services with the potential to reverse progress in access made over recent decades. Floods and droughts are the most commonly considered climate threats as they damage infrastructure, interrupt services and reduce the availability of water. However, climate threats to water and sanitation extend beyond these as wildfires affect catchments, sea-level rise and storm surges degrade water quality, and increasing temperature affects water demand and quality. Using examples drawn primarily from small towns and rural communities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), this presentation will discuss how we can start to improve resilience. It will set out why resilience is different from sustainability and the importance of understanding resilience as multi-dimensional. It will describe how interventions addressing environmental, management and economic issues are often more important than changes in technology or upgrading of infrastructure. The need for greater integration of preparedness and disaster response into WASH programming will be outlined.

The presentation will discuss how the measurement of resilience is a critical challenge in LMICs and how poor measurement leads to a poor understanding of current system deficits, undermining efforts to build resilience. Recent years have seen substantial efforts to improve resilience measurement and the presentation will reflect on experience with developing and testing metrics in a number of LMICs and where challenges remain.

About the speaker:

Professor Guy Howard is the Director of the Cabot Institute for the Environment at the University of Bristol and holds a Global Research Chair in Infrastructure and Environmental Resilience in the Department of Civil Engineering. Professor Howard’s research focuses on climate resilience of water and sanitation services and health systems, water quality and environmental influences on public health, and adaptation to environmental change in mountains and communities. All Professor Howard’s research focuses on low- and middle-income countries. Current research includes developing and applying resilience metrics on drinking water supplies; research into emissions and resilience from on-site sanitation; and assessing the impact of household adaptions to heat on health. He works extensively with partners in Asia and Africa. Before joining the University of Bristol, Professor Howard spent 16 years at the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in a variety of roles. He was an accredited climate and environment advisor and an infrastructure advisor, providing advice on project development and undertaking assessments of project designs. He spent 6 years at the policy lead for water and sanitation, and was previously the policy lead on water resources. He set up the DFID South Asia Research Hub in 2010, developing a portfolio of policy-focused research including on climate change. He held Deputy Director positions in the Human Development Policy Department and in the Research and Evidence Division.

Joining the event

This will be a hybrid event, with the opportunity for Imperial staff and students and external guests to attend at one of two campus locations (South Kensington and Silwood Park).

In Person

• The Grantham Institute Boardroom, Imperial College South Kensington Campus

• Silwood Park Campus – Fisher and Haldene Seminar Rooms


Guests can join the seminar remotely on zoom. Details to follow.

About The Changing Planet seminar series

The Changing Planet seminar series is run by students and staff on the Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) Doctoral Training Program. It offers the chance to hear the latest in understanding, adapting to and mitigating environmental problems, complementing the diversity of environmental research at Imperial College London and beyond.Please be aware that our seminars are recorded. If you do not wish to appear on the recording please alert a member of staff. For any further enquiries regarding the Changing Planet seminar series, please contact Anne Houston or Hana Amer.Sign up to receive the Grantham Institute’s Weekly Update email, featuring the latest news and events about climate change and the environment at Imperial.When registering for a ticket here, your data will be stored by Eventbrite. See Eventbrite’s privacy policy.If you would rather not register with Eventbrite, please contact us at

Event details

Event date:
June 28, 2023

Event time:
12:00 pm